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Community Broadcaster: Time for #NFCB19

Community radio’s longest running event scheduled for June 18–20

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at

On June 18–20, community radio’s longest running event touches down in San Diego when hundreds of community media faithful gather for the National Federation of Community Broadcasters’ conference.

As one of the event’s organizers, I can tell you conferences are a tremendous amount of work, but they are so helpful to attendees and the community media space at large.

One of the central conversations at the 2019 Community Media Conference is on relevance. For community radio, such a discussion is crucial to our sustainability. We cannot assume future generations will organically know to donate and gravitate to what noncommercial media does given all the choices available. So, how does community radio make its case for the value it brings to a city or town?

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Protect Our Own]

Author Nina Simon will keynote the conference’s Wednesday sessions. A leader in the nonprofit industry, Simon has worked with hundreds of museums, libraries, parks, historic sites and cultural centers on issues of relevance, community engagement and participatory design. Her books include “The Participatory Museum” and “The Art of Relevance.” You may have seen her TED Talk, or caught her work in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NPR or elsewhere. Her viewpoints are provocative and sure to spark conversation. In particular, her remarks on a common refrain I have heard in community media may prompt you to think differently.

“When I ask what the phrase ‘Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need’ means, I am often told that we should not be pandering to people’s expressed desires but presenting them with objects and experiences that challenge them and open up new ways of seeing the world. I agree. It is incredibly valuable for cultural institutions to present experiences that might be surprising, unexpected, or outside participants’ comfort zones. But I don’t typically hear this phrase deployed to argue in favor of a risky program format or an unusual piece of content. I don’t hear this phrase accompanied by evidence-based articulation of ‘needs’ of audiences. Instead, I hear this phrase used to defend traditional formats and content in the face of change. I hear ‘Don’t give people what they want, give them what I want.’”

Later in the conference, legendary community radio attorney John Crigler talks about the past and future of community media. Crigler is renowned for his spirited legal work for community stations. One column focused on his history following his retirement for the practice of law. One can expect his perspective of the medium and where it is headed will be something not to miss.

This year’s attendees will be treated to event tracks focused on growing content, engagement, revenue and organizational capacity. There is a diverse lineup of discussions. They include underwriting best practices, building morning drivetime programming, community radio podcasting, optimizing your organization’s visibility through events, creating a strategic plan and much more. In addition, multihour intensives will dig into creating major gift programs and making those asks, human resources skills for community media, and audio production and editing for community radio.

One round of sessions will give attendees an update on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting/NFCB initiative funded last year to build rural radio capacity. Attendees will hear from stations as far ranging as WERU in Maine, KTNA in Alaska, Marfa Public Radio in Texas and WXPR in Wisconsin and their many experiences in creating new dynamics in their stations and communities.

And then there are the informal gatherings, networking and conferencing that happens at NFCB events. From pioneer Lorenzo Milam to generations of station managers, the NFCB conference has attracted community radio’s most important voices since its first meetings in the 1970s. With an annual meeting and NFCB board election on the horizon, the 2019 Community Media Conference is anticipated to be a critical one.

NFCB expects to share content, stream some events and much more. You can follow conference sessions online with the hashtag #NFCB19. Photos, updates and more will be shared via NFCB’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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